Wed | Jun 19, 2024

Letter of the Day | Can we prevent the next school tragedy?

Published:Tuesday | April 23, 2024 | 12:07 AM


It was just another Thursday afternoon at Irwin High School when a 15-year-old boy was stabbed outside the school. This tragedy exposes a horrifying reality: school violence. Recently, a school in Kingston was forced to close due to a disturbing incident of violence. We can’t let another life be cut short. What are we doing to keep our children safe? Serious measures are needed to counter this problem.

Parents play a significant role in how their children behave in society. While not solely responsible for school violence, parenting styles can be a contributing factor. Recently, my school’s principal decided to punish a group of students for their disruptive and disrespectful behaviour. They were issued a detention and were given the slips to take home. In the parent WhatsApp group, a mother sent a voice note saying that she told her daughter to leave the detention room, and other parents wrote that they told their children not to stay.

Parents directly instructed their child to disobey the principal’s punishment, undermining the school’s authority to maintain order and discipline. Also, by excusing their children’s behaviour, the parents send the message that disrespect and disruption are acceptable. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard a parent say they don’t know what to do. These things only exacerbate the many issues our school system faces. To address these concerns, workshops can be organised to equip parents with the tools they need to foster discipline in their children. These workshops can provide resources and strategies to enhance positive parenting skills and communication. By strengthening support for parents, we can create a more collaborative environment that benefits both students and the school system.

The Ministry of Education and schools across the island need to implement social emotional learning (SEL), which focuses on developing the essential skills. It equips students with self-awareness, allowing them to understand their emotions and triggers. It also fosters self-control, enabling them to manage their reactions effectively. Additionally, SEL programmes cultivate crucial interpersonal skills, including empathy, active listening, and collaboration. They develop conflict resolution skills, allowing them to approach disagreements constructively and find peaceful solutions. They also learn emotional regulation techniques, empowering them to manage anger, frustration, and stress in healthy ways. SEL fosters positive communication, promoting respectful interactions, and fostering strong relationships with peers.

Early intervention is paramount if we are to end or reduce school violence. By identifying students at risk early, we can intervene before their struggles manifest as violence. This could involve students displaying signs of anger management issues, social isolation, or exposure to violence at home. Early identification allows us to address the root causes of potential violence.

Only by working together – parents, educators, and communities – can we keep our children safe.